Category: Earthworks & Earth Resources

The Transition from Swales to On Contour Hedges

One of permaculture´s most famed and acknowledged contributions to sustainable land management and ecologically sound agricultural practices are swales. From Australia to Finland to South Africa, thousands of permaculture practitioners from around the world have taken their laser levels, A-frame levels, and Bunyip water levels to map out the contour lines across the landscape that holds them. Once stakes have been placed across the contour lines across the land, either […]

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Closed-Loop Farming in Costa Rica

I woke up to the sound and smell of a chicken coop. It was a mild March morning in La Argentina, a small town on Costa Rica’s southeastern edge. I was staying on a small-scale, family farm of the gracious Señora Ana. Her farm, as with many of her neighbor’s, incorporates animal, vegetable, and fish production into a closed-loop system. Closed-loop farming is, in essence, the most primitive form of […]

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Why We Use Swales and How to Do It Appropriately

A swale is one of those permaculture terms that probably gets thrown around to readily (or inaccurately) and perhaps implemented irresponsibly. Only a few years into my permaculture career, I have certainly been guilty of this, and I have distinct memories of mistakes I made with regards to both attempting to construct swales and putting them in the wrong place. In my defense, and perhaps to my own credit, I […]

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The Low-Down on Double-Dig Gardens

The Low-Down on Double-Dig Gardens

I hear and read many people who are completely against double-digging, and to state this upfront, for those most part, I’m in complete agreement with their assessment. I am a believer in no-dig gardens. Even more so, I think being patient with our soil situations—planting what will grow and piling organic matter atop the soil to replenish the nutrient cycle—works. I’ve seen it work in dry situations, in clay situations, […]

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Hugel Swales May be a Bad Idea

Ok, so this conversation has been addressed in the correct way and was explained by Jack Spirko at https://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/. This very bad idea, Hugel-swales on contour, should not be done!!!!! We can however accomplish the morph on small scale as explained by Jack Spirko, but not in the true “this is how to build a swale” and “this is how to build a Hugel.” Again, do not do what I […]

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Creating the Mainframe Design for our Farm

This article is about how we figured out our mainframe design for roads, swales and ponds/dams. The pictures that show how those were installed you can see in an earlier article here. Because the terrain of our farm was totally overgrown and the topography is a bit complicated, it took us two years to finalize this mainframe design. This process has taught us a few good lessons which I will […]

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Evolutions on Mr. Phiri’s Water-Harvesting Plantation, 1995–2016

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to return to Zimbabwe and to the farm of some of my prime water-harvesting mentors, Mr. Zephaniah Phiri Maseko and his family. While in the region, I also visited the farms of many other innovative farmers who are enhancing their soils’ hydrology and fertility by cooperating with natural systems. In this blog entry, and some to follow, I will share some of the […]

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Infrastructure: Dams, Roads and Swales

In the past 2 years a lot of our focus was on getting the main infrastructural elements in place. We first had to clear the semi flat area of the land to be able to even see most of it. Once we had a better view, we started planning what had to become a complete interconnected system of ponds, dams, gullies, swales and dirt roads. In this post we show […]

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Urban Swales

Last year, we did a series of videos looking at the swale systems on our property and demonstration site. Part one looks at how we’ve combined the featuress of a Hügelkultur system, a wicking bed, and swales to nourish a productive garden that requires very little additional irrigation: Urban Swales Part 1: Weeping Tile & Mulched Pathways This second video in the urban swales series looks at permaculture design with […]

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Morocco Project Update

The earthworks have progressed nicely and below is a series of photos of when we were installing the earthworks and after the first decent rains of the season. Keeping in mind the site receives 250mm of rain per year and like a lot of dry-lands come’s in about 3 events in mid-winter.

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Bunyip Water Level: Measure Contour Lines & Swales

To have professional surveyors map our contour lines was going to cost thousands of dollars and many we spoke to outright refused because of the number of trees and acreage. The estimates we did receive were not frequent in elevational increments – one even came in at “every 60 feet!” So we ended up hiring a company only for marking our property boundaries. To map the inner swales and contour […]

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Mogendoura Earthworks 1 Year On

Recently I had the opportunity to check out the earthworks performance where I installed a mainframe design in January 2015. I was contacted to sort out the dam wall and spillway as the client was concerned about its safety due to very little free board between the high water mark and the top of the dam wall. Also installing two levelsill spillways on each backflood swale 1, as a primary […]

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